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Qatar Losing Mideast Ground to Saudi Diplomacy, Say Experts

(Naharnet/France24) – The wealthy Gulf state had transformed itself into a key regional player but began to retreat as heavyweight Saudi Arabia re-entered the political arena after lagging behind in the immediate period following the eruption of the Arab Spring uprisings in December 2010.

The ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohammed Morsi last week by the army and the election by the Syrian opposition of Saudi-linked Ahmad Assi Jarba as new leader stripped Qatar of strong influence in both countries.

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Poster of Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, an Israeli flag and a logo of the Al Jazeera channel with the words reading: "Down Hamad" - 18 feb. 2011 (Photo: Reuters - Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Qatar had tried to take a leading role in the region but overstepped its limits by openly backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, and other Arab Spring states,” said Kuwaiti political analyst Ayed al-Manna .

Jonathan Eyal, head of international relations at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, argued that Qatar’s regional politics have failed.

“Qatar’s Middle Eastern diplomacy now lies in ruins: it failed to produce dividends in Libya, backfired in Syria and has now collapsed in Egypt,” local Emirati daily The National quoted him on Tuesday as saying.

Is Qatar’s Foreign Policy Sustainable?

Is Syria-Qatar rift a ‘shrewdly calculated divorce’

(France24) Aug. 2, 2011 – The diplomatic rift between Syria and Qatar has been simmering as the so-called “Arab spring” spred across the Middle East, with anti-government protest movements rocking countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. But the tension between the two countries is now at its boiling point and may contribute to Syria’s growing isolation on the international stage.

“Qatar’s move looks more like a shrewdly calculated divorce from the Syrian regime than a fleeting spat,” explained Karim Sader, an independent political scientist who specialises in the Gulf nations. According to Sader, Qatar “cynically concluded that it is no longer necessary to support the Syria of Bashar al-Assad, because this Syria no longer has the same strategic influence ever since the recent Arab revolts started shifting the power dynamics in the region”.

Already weakened by internal political conflict as well as pressure from the international community in the wake of the Syrian regime’s violent repression of protests, Syria has seen its influence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict decline. Since the reconciliation in late April between Hamas – which Qatar supports financially – and Fatah, Syria’s input on the matter has been less frequently solicited. “The reopening of the Rafah border crossing following the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also loosened the stranglehold on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip,” Sader said. “That development, combined with the reconciliation of rival Palestinian factions, makes it so that Qatar can now do without the Syrian go-between when dealing with Palestinians.”

Qatar’s mood swings: Pro-Iran or pro-West?

(JPost) Feb. 2, 2009 – There’s the side firmly with the United States and (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas, and the others backing Hamas and, by extension, seen as moving toward Iran,” said Nadim Shehadi, a Mideast affairs specialist at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. “And, like with a cold war, no side is willing to push it too hard because the risks are so great,” he added. Nearly every high-stakes question in the Middle East these days somehow draws in Qatar, which is the just half the size of Belgium but strives for a place alongside Arab heavyweights such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

It is rich in oil and gas reserves, has wide influence in the Muslim world as the patron of the Al-Jazeera TV network, and has proved adroit at maneuvering between rivals. “You sometimes get the feeling that Qatar has multiple personalities,” said Mustafa Alani, director of national security and terrorism studies at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. “It’s hard to say which one will show up.”

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